On November 9 from 4:30-5 p.m., families will have the opportunity to meet local children’s author Valerie Peña and her certified therapy dog Zoey with the Somerset County Library System of New Jersey (SCLSNJ) through a virtual program.
During the program Peña, an occupational therapist and therapy dog handler, will read her first published book “Wally’s Wish” from the Wally’s World series; discuss how she writes and where her ideas come from; and answer any questions Library customers may have.
“The ‘World of Wally’ books were written to be a source of comfort and empowerment for all children,” said Peña. “When I began writing, I became aware of the parallels between the topics in the stories to the issues children face in their lives. Their purpose is to help children believe in themselves and their own abilities to face and conquer whatever life throws their way.”
Continued Peña, “Children face many challenges in their lives, and sometimes it is difficult to know how to overcome them. My books provide a way for children to experience life’s difficulties through the eyes of Wally, who faces many of the same challenges that they do. Whatever it is that a child may be experiencing, it is comforting to know that Wally has also gone through a similar situation, and was able to overcome it.”
In addition to delving into her experiences as an author Peña, who has visited SCLSNJ’s Watchung Library branch with her therapy dog Zoey will also explore the benefits of reading to a therapy dog.
“I believe therapy dogs provide unconditional love and comfort without any judgement, and enable children to be themselves without feeling intimidated, the way they might feel being around people,” said Peña. “What I would like to accomplish through my therapy dog visits is to work with Zoey to help develop self-esteem, comfort, and happiness in every child we meet and with whom we develop relationships.”
“Valerie and Zoey have become a beloved part of SCLSNJ’s programming lineup,” said Lynn Mazur, youth services supervisor. “I am so excited for Valerie to share her first book with the children of Somerset County, and to give them the chance to explore her writing process. She will surely help children discover a lifelong love of reading and writing.”
The author, who began writing in 2004, is currently working on a book that she hopes will help empower children. The book will feature Zoey and explore Peña’s 25-plus years of experience working as a school-based occupational therapist.